Huang’er appeared to be treated as the eldest young miss of the house still. No one in the entire house dared disrespect her. However, she also felt a deep-seated helplessness. She knew full well that no one in the clan actually cared much about her. They just didn’t want to press her, out of concern that she might commit suicide due to depression.
She was cooped up and kept out of the way; a future cultivation vessel delivery to House Xiahou. This was a promise the house had committed to many years ago, and a mark of shame upon the family.
Alas, the passage of time had dampened the indignance of the latter. But as a token in the exchange, Huang’er herself hadn’t been forgotten. Everyone knew the importance of keeping her intact. House Yan couldn’t suffer House Xiahou’s indignant rage otherwise.
She was clever enough to understand all the details, but wise enough to know she couldn’t turn the tables yet. Instead of causing trouble, she bided her time closely.
If there were any miracles left in the world to hope for, she believed that only Jiang Chen would be able to bring them. She could lose faith in the rest of the world, bar him.
She firmly believed that the man she loved would descend upon Myriad Abyss Island one day and save her from this nightmare, shocking the entire realm in the process. What she had to do was to wait patiently until then.
To this end, she kept her solitude and focused on her own cultivation. She dismissed the servants and maids given to her. She took care of her own needs and chores. Aside from Elder Shun, she had no companionship.
Unfortunately, the elder was also significantly worse for wear compared to how he’d been a long time ago. For violating the taboo of taking Huang’er away from Myriad Abyss, he’d been imprisoned as punishment. Only after her return and alternating between threats and coaxes had he been released. His cultivation was restricted to less than thirty percent of what it’d been.
This ensured that he wouldn’t be able to help Huang’er in any more misadventures. It was also out of consideration for her emotional needs that he was released. He would’ve been left to rot in jail, otherwise.
Meanwhile, Huang’er’s parents were utterly despised by House Xiahou. House Yan had no authority to make decisions on that front. Thus, she refrained from making any demands about them.
On yet another day, Huang’er sat outside her room to play her zither. The two pieces she played were almost a daily ritual for her.
The Sacred Deliverance Mantra and the Ethereal Soothing Melody assuaged her grief, if only a little. Jiang Chen had taught her both, and they’d been extremely effective in suppressing her Generation Binding Curse a long time ago.
At the same time, the pieces marked the initial stages of her attraction to him. She’d never expected a martial cultivator to be able to perform such elegantly fine and moving music. Jiang Chen himself was still in the dark about the key part the music had played.
Huang’er plucked the songs over and over, the nostalgic notes taking her back to the time in the human domain, at her love’s side. She couldn’t restrain her emotions. Melancholy, affection, sorrow, anticipation, disquiet, and all kinds of other feelings were stirred together in a melting pot.
“Ah, Huang’er. You’re thinking of that kid again?” Elder Shun’s aged voice sounded outside the hall. His vigorous footsteps could be heard as he approached the girl. Though he had only thirty percent of his cultivation remaining, his mind wasn’t any less diminished for it. There was a strength that supported him – giving him the single-minded resolution to protect Huang’er. His faculties was perhaps even sharper than before.
Huang’er pressed her fingers down to mute the strings of her instrument when she heard the elder’s footsteps. She adjusted her emotions, doing all that she could to calm herself. She knew how much Elder Shun worried about her, and wanted to keep his concern to a minimum.
“You’re here, Elder Shun,” she murmured quietly.
“Yes, I went out to gather some information. Just like you, I hope that foolish boy comes soon.” The old man knew about the oath between the two. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing as usual.” Elder Shun shook his head with disappointment. “He hasn’t gotten a new paramour, has he? Maybe he’s too scared of Myriad Abyss to come?”
“No, no,” Huang’er defended hastily. “Brother Chen isn’t that kind of guy.”
“Oh, I know he’s not,” laughed Elder Shun. “But it’s not an easy task to get from the human domain to here.”
The girl nodded, then sank into silence. It took a long while for her to speak again. “Elder Shun, have you heard anything about your disciple?”
“Not him, either,” sighed the old man. “When I noticed the family was on my tail, I set him up for success elsewhere. I wonder if he’s found his footing after all these years?”
The disciple they were talking about was Chu Xinghan. Elder Shun had brought him from the sixteen kingdom alliance here all those years ago.
Under the old man’s tutelage, Chu Xinghan had advanced rapidly in cultivation. He’d already reached emperor realm when they’d been forced apart from each other. It’s almost guaranteed that he’s a great emperor by now.
After all, the elder had spent many resources on him; some of which even Jiang Chen hadn’t benefitted from. It was the first time that the elder had taught someone so seriously. The old man had high hopes for the youth.
It was a pity that their time together had been so brief. Ever since Elder Shun had been captured by the family again, there’d been no communication with Chu Xinghan since.
The old master couldn’t exactly leave the Eternal Divine Nation in his current circumstance. The house wouldn’t let him do so. Thus, it was virtually impossible for him to get any information on Chu Xinghan.
“You know, Chu Xinghan and Jiang Chen carry themselves with the spirit of the ancients despite being from the human domain. Many Myriad Abyss geniuses can’t compare to them in this respect. Perhaps it’s true that the cultivators that came here were largely cowards and deserters from the ancient demon-sealing war. Their descendants have lacked certain qualities ever since…”
There was self-deprecation and frustration in his voice. Elder Shun’s experiences had left him disappointed in his own house and in Eternal Divine Nation. In fact, this carried over to the entirety of Myriad Abyss, to a certain extent.
“There are remarkable geniuses in Myriad Abyss too, but Brother Chen is unique.” Huang’er didn't think there existed another genius beneath the heavens who could rival her beloved.
“Ah, that’s right. On the topic of Jiang Chen… I heard some news about an interesting character recently.” Elder Shun whacked his head. “Look at my memory. I wanted to tell you about it, but I almost ended up forgetting.”
“What is it?” Huang’er’s eyes glittered at the mention of Jiang Chen.
“Polylore Divine Nation has become the laughingstock of all. Its eight houses journeyed to the Rejuvenation Isles so that their young geniuses could undergo a trial on an isolated island. They were supposed to be hunting the local geniuses, but that ended up backfiring. Two of the hunted reportedly became hunters and killed six young geniuses across three houses.”
Huang’er’s slender brow furrowed slightly. “Polylore Divine Nation’s eight houses? Their geniuses rival House Yan’s, no? How come…”
“Heh, they’re probably stronger than House Yan’s. But things really are just that strange. Six geniuses from three houses have mysteriously died, and it seems that their killer was the same person. There are reportedly two possible culprits: one is called Su Hong, a Winterdraw native, and the other one is named Jiang Huang. Winterdraw still hasn’t figured out who he actually is or where he came from. This mysterious man apparently appeared out of thin air, then vanished overnight!”
Huang’er trembled violently. “Elder Shun, what did you say? What’s his name again?”
“Jiang Huang.” Elder Shun was unsurprised by the girl’s reaction. “Huang’er, Jiang Huang is the more suspicious of the duo. Su Hong is being gradually eliminated as the likely assassin. The pursuit is much hotter on the former. I hear Polylore is planning to increase the bounty once more.”
“Jiang Huang? Jiang Huang?” Huang’er’s brilliant eyes glittered with exciting color. She was usually serene, but could no longer maintain her composure after hearing this particular bit of news.
Elder Shun’s revelation had inexplicably hit a nerve. She became restless and giddy. The name was too much of a coincidence for her to mark it off as being oversensitive.
‘Jiang Huang’ was precisely ‘Jiang Chen’ and ‘Huang’er’ put together.
Can it be Brother Chen? Has he come? Her heart quavered. A thousand thoughts welled up in her mind, demolishing her customary restraint. The anticipation for her beloved overcame her inhibitions. Was this a coincidence, or was Brother Chen trying to hint at something?
“Elder Shun, the Rejuvenation Isles is only a second or third-rate faction, yes? Winterdraw is an island in its domain? Do you think a native from there is strong enough to kill geniuses from three great houses?”
“That’s why it’s so odd. Huang’er, do you think...” Elder Shun didn't want to go on. He was concerned Huang’er might grasp at impossibilities, only to be met with disappointment.
“Whether or not that’s the case, Elder Shun, I want to go investigate.” Huang’er was uncommonly resolute.
“How’s that possible? The entire house is courteous toward you, but that’s based on your firm captivity here. There’s no way anyone else will agree to you going on a trip!”
“If they don’t, I’ll kill myself!” Huang’er’s clear eyes held a hitherto unseen stubbornness.
“That…” Elder Shun pondered. “Actually, the house has received an invitation recently. The Bluesmoke Isles is holding some sort of jade festival to which the Ten Divine Nations’ geniuses are cordially invited to…”
“I’m going.” Huang’er suddenly rose to her feet.